Oxford High School shooting suspect to claim insanity -- What happens next?

Oxford High School shooting suspect to claim insanity -- What happens next?
Published: Jan. 27, 2022 at 10:33 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 27, 2022 at 11:14 PM EST
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PONTIAC, Mich. (WILX) - Ethan Crumbley, the 15-year-old boy accused of opening fire, killing four students and injuring seven others at Oxford High School, is planning to pursue an insanity defense.

The notice was filed Thursday. It should lead to mental health examinations of the teenager, who was charged as an adult with terrorism, first-degree murder and other crimes.

What does an insanity defense mean? How do the courts determine whether or not someone qualifies?

According to Michigan law, “An individual is legally insane if, as a result of mental illness as defined in section 400 of the mental health code, or as a result of having an intellectual disability as defined in section 100b of the mental health code, that person lacks substantial capacity either to appreciate the nature and quality or the wrongfulness of his or her conduct or to conform his or her conduct to the requirements of the law. Mental illness or having an intellectual disability does not otherwise constitute a defense of legal insanity.”

“If the jury believes it, then he’s off the hook,” said Brendon Basiga, a criminal defense attorney.

Basiga revealed a potential outcome if the insanity plea is successful.

“They have to file that notice and then the individual is immediately sent to the Center For Forensic Psychiatry,” Basiga said. “The evaluation is very specific. It evaluates the individual’s mindset at the time of the offense.”

Criminal defense attorney Rico Neal said the psychiatric tests have to prove that Crumbley was clinically insane at the time of the shooting.

“At the time that he committed the offense, he was insane, meaning he could not conform his behavior to the law,” Neal said. “Not thereafter, but at the actual time of the offense, he had some mental deficiencies.”

According to Psychology Today, the insanity defense is used in about 1% of all criminal proceedings

Basiga also explained there’s a difference between not being competent to stand trial and not being criminally responsible.

In the event Crumbley is found to be incompetent to stand trial, the case would be put on hold until he is found to be mentally fit and then the trial would continue as normal.

If Crumbley is found clinically insane, the trial would essentially be over and Crumbley would be released to medical professionals for treatment and not released until he’s deemed mentally fit. Basiga said it’s extremely difficult to prove and doesn’t happen very often.

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